Steamtown cinemas future in doubt

June 19th, 2015 9:27 am

First Posted: 6/5/2014

SCRANTON — The sheriff’s sale for the Mall at Steamtown has been rescheduled to July 15, but the mall’s theaters could close as early as September, according to an employee of Marquee Cinemas who requested anonymity.

According to the Marquee employee, the theaters could cease operations when students return to school and the summer movie bonanza is over.

Another reason for Marquee’s exit could be that major motion pictures will all be made digitally, meaning no more film. New, more expensive equipment would be required to continue to show first-run movies at the theater.

The Marquee employee said if the next mall owner requires a movie theater as a condition of sale, it could keep the theaters open until a new vendor is found. The auction is taking place because Steamtown Mall Partners defaulted on loans.

Clarence Banks, general manager at the Steamtown Mall, said Marquee Cinemas of West Virginia gave notification of its intent not to renew the lease that expires at the end of the year. The cinemas are housed in a building across Lackawanna Avenue from the mall.

Banks said several movie theater vendors have inquired about the space, indicating that movies will still be shown downtown after Marquee leaves. Banks said he could not comment on reports that an art-house theater or a second-run theater could be options.

On-site theater manager Richard Johnson said he was not authorized to discuss the situation and referred inquiries to the West Virginia corporate office. Numerous attempts to contact Marquee management via telephone and email seeking comment went unanswered.

Al Boscov, who will be one of the bidders for the Steamtown Mall, said he had not heard what the plans are for the Steamtown 8 Cinemas operated by Marquee.

The theaters are housed in buildings that are part of the Steamtown Mall property, Boscov said, but are not part of the sheriff’s sale. Marquee leases the space to operate the theaters.

The sale had been scheduled for June 10 with an expected asking price of around $43 million.

Boscov, owner of the department store chain, said the sheriff’s sale will be held at 10 a.m. on July 15 and he will be one of the bidders.

“We want to try to save the mall,” Boscov said.

Boscov said if the price does reach what the mortgage holder — he believes a banking group in Florida — wants, the sale could be refused and the group would retain ownership.

“It’s my understanding that the sheriff’s sale was postponed because the current ownership needed more time for due diligence,” Boscov said.